1 KILLING ME SOFTLY (Fugees)
With the phenomenal sales of their first couple of weeks behind them [157K and 195K, although this was written before it was revealed they'd sold a further 173K this week] the Fugees settle back for a third week at Number One but with an ever growing chance that someone else is going to catch them up. This week has proven to be a curious one with a number of potentially big new releases underperforming and entering the chart much lower than many people had predicted. Hence Killing Me Softly appears safe for a little while but the challengers are lurking...
2 MYSTERIOUS GIRL (Peter Andre)
Still in a position to make a challenge for the top slot is Peter Andre's summery reggae tune which has somehow managed to fit nicely the mood of many people during Britain's current spell of sweltering weather. After three weeks at Number 3 he finally advances one place and could well be in a position to strike should the Fugees suddenly slacken off the pace. By the way is it just me or does the track sound more like Inner Circle's Sweat every time you hear it?
3 ALWAYS BE MY BABY (Mariah Carey)
The biggest new hit of the week is, perhaps a little predictably, Mariah Carey's recent American chart-topper. It becomes her fourth hit in recent months and follows on from the Number 4 peak of her cover of Journey's Open Arms back in February. The shmaltzy starlet suffered a slow start to her career in this country with only one Top 10 hit between 1990 and 1992 but since then she has been on a roll and Always Be My Baby is her 11th consecutive Top 10 hit, a total bettered by only 10 other acts. [Funny this, the station I was working for at a time didn't playlist this at all as the Head Of Music hated it. I'm ambivalent about most Mariah Carey tracks but this one is far and away my favourite simply because of the elegant simplicity of the arrangement and the restrained way she delivers the song].
5 BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME (Celine Dion)
I had a feeling this hit wasn't going to go away quickly. With the release of the film Up Close And Personal on whose soundtrack it features and given Celine Dion's past record of growing hits slowly but surely it comes as no surprise to see Because You Loved Me move upwards once more after spending two weeks at Number 8. As one of the few genuinely upwardly mobile hits in the Top 10 I would not want to bet against this going Top 3 in a couple of weeks time.
7 MAKE IT WITH YOU (Let Loose)
A welcome summertime comeback for Let Loose gives them one of the biggest new hits of the week. The threesome first appeared on that chart in 1994 with the smash Number 2 hit Crazy For You. Although marketed as a teen hearthrob band they displayed slightly more depth than your average boy band and consolidated that first hit with four more well crafted pop singles up to the end of last year. Now after a short layoff the band return to pick up where they left off with a fairly straightforward yet somehow rather inspired cover. Make It With You is one of David Gates' more famous compositions for his band Bread, becoming their first and biggest hit single when it reached Number 5 in August 1970. Let Loose stay faithful to the original version of the ballad and as a consequence produce a record that is as perfect for the summer of 1996 as the original was 26 years ago. Interestingly Let Loose's version is not the only cover of the song to chart in recent years, the Pasadenas taking their take on the track to Number 20 in 1992.
11 WE'RE IN THIS TOGETHER (Simply Red)
Euro 96 chart fever continues this week with another spate of hit singles inspired by the tournament. Simply Red's hit is probably the closest you can get to the tournament - the official anthem of the entire event which was performed by Mick Hucknall at the opening ceremony. The anthemic track, complete with choir and as far removed from a typical Simply Red release as it is possible to get, is also receiving regular television airings with ITV using the song as the theme for their live coverage. The track does of course have echoes of Daryl Hall and Sounds Of Blackness' Gloryland which was the official theme of the 1994 World Cup and was also used by ITV as their theme although the track fared slightly worse than this, only peaking at Number 36 just under two years ago this week. Meanwhile the tournament continues and so do the string of hits, the BBC's own theme down at Number 36 and Black Grape's England's Irie released this week and set to storm the Top 10 next weekend.
12 INSTINCT (Crowded House)
So, farewell then, Crowded House. One of the most successful bands in the world over the past few years have finally decided to end the constant personnel shifting and branched off solo projects from the Finn brothers and have called it a day. The end is heralded with a forthcoming Greatest Hits collection and a farewell single, hence the chart entry this week of Instinct. Crowded House's chart career has been consistent rather than spectacular, this being their 12th chart hit and the fifth to reach the Top 20. Only once did they break into the Top 10, Weather With You reaching Number 7 in March 1992.
14 THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY (R Kelly)
A surge of advance orders for this latest R Kelly single has helped to boost its chart position above the mid-table mediocrity he seems to be suffering from of late. 'Thank God...' sails past the Number 23 peak of Down Low back in March and becomes his biggest hit single since Bump And Grind peaked at Number 8 in January 1995.
15 THAT GIRL (Maxi Priest featuring Shaggy)
Maxi Priest can lay claim to being one of Britain's most enduring reggae stars, switching moods and styles according to current musical fashion to such an extent that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Thus he debuted in 1986 with breezy tracks such as Strollin' On, had his first big hit at Christmas 1987 with a lovers rock version of Some Guys Have All The Luck before making the Top 10 for the first time in 1988 with a cover of Cat Stevens' Wild World. His next big hit came in 1990 with Close To You, a track with its finger on the pulse of dance culture so much that it shot to Number One in America as well as making Number 7 over here. His last big chart smash came at the height of the ragga boom in 1993 when he teamed up with Shabba Ranks on the Number 8 hit Housecall. Three years later he is back once more, this time in collaboration with Shaggy on a rather brilliant track that samples heavily from Booker T and the MGs Green Onions. It is Shaggy's third hit this year and his second collaboration thanks to the presence of Grand Puba on Why You Treat Me So Bad.
16 SHE SAID (Longpigs)
The growing popularity of the Longpigs continues with their third hit of the year and with this reissue of a single first released almost a year ago when it missed the Top 40. This time round it does much better, matching the peak of their last On and On which charted back in April.
23 FORGET ABOUT THE WORLD (Gabrielle)
Gabrielle's comeback single Give Me Just A Little More Time turned out to be one of the most enduring hits of the year so far, belying its slow start to climb steadily, eventually peaking at Number 5 in early April. The success of the track has caused Go! Beat records something of a problem when trying to promote this second single from her new album - the old song refuses to go away. Give Me A Little More Time only slipped out of the Top 40 a few weeks ago and is still on heavy rotation on many playlists around the country, to such an extent that Forget About The World has struggled to get the airplay it deserves. Finally after having its release date revised backwards to give its predecessor time to burn itself out, the track finally charts. It will be a shame if the above factors cause it to under-perform as this new song is every bit as lovely as Give Me A Little More Time, proving that Gabrielle's first acclaimed album was no one-off. If this track gets no further than Number 23 then it will be a very real shame.
25 I BELIEVE (Booth and the Bad Angel)
The strangest collaboration on the chart this week has to be this. Booth is Tim Booth, the former lead singer of James, best known for their 1991 Nunber 2 hit Sit Down and now setting out to be a solo star in his own right. The "Bad Angel" is actually Italian composer and arranger Angelo Badalamenti, best known for his work scoring David Lynch's TV series 'Twin Peaks' and for his production work with Julee Cruise. The result of this collaboration is I Believe which is a rather good if straightforward pop song of the kind that James produced throughout their long career with the added bonus of Badalamenti's synthesised [I've a feeling it was real actually] orchestral arrangement which gradually creeps higher and higher up the mix to bring the song to a stunning crescendo.
26 TOWN WITHOUT PITY (Eddie Reader)
The first hit for a couple of years from Eddie Reader, once the lead singer of Fairground Attraction but now a solo star in her own right. She has struggled to have hits since her old band broke up, breaking the Top 40 for the first time with Patience Of Angels from her second album in June 1994 when it reached Number 33. Two followup singles just missed the Top 40 and so only now does she make the top end of the chart for the second time and in the process notching up her biggest solo hit to date with this rather wonderful jazz-tinged number. During their short life, Fairground Attraction had two Top 10 hits, not least of which was 1988's Number One Perfect.
28 A BETTER MAN (Brian Kennedy)
Robert Kennedy is an Irish singer-songwriter who has built up quite a name for himself thanks to collaborations with people like Van Morrison and Tina Turner. The moody ballad A Better Man lands easily inside the Top 30 to give him his first ever hit single.
30 I CAN DRIVE (Shakespear's Sister)
After a break of 3 years, Siobahn Fahey reappears to reactivate her chart career. Now devoid of the distinctive vocals of Marcella Detroit, Shakespear's Sister are now just a front for the former Bananarama singer. Quite what effect that will have remains to be seen, part of the appeal of the group was the way the contrasting vocal styles of the two ladies played off against one another.This new single is written by Siobahn, husband Dave Stewart and one Robert Hodgens, the former lead singer of the Bluebells. The significance here is that Fahey and Hodgens were together responsible for Young At Heart, the track that became a re-issued Number One for the Bluebells in 1993.
31 LONDON TONIGHT/EAT MY GOAL (Collapsed Lung)
Football time and Euro 96 time again. Collapsed Lung are a London-based rap band who landed on their feet when Coca-Cola asked them to record a song for use in their current Euro 96-related ad campaign. The result is Eat My Goal, relegated to being part of a double-a sided single but clearly the track that has sold the single and helped it to give Collapsed Lung their first ever Top 40 hit. [Nobody planned it that way, but Euro '96 gave us a startling number of tie-in records which all went on to become iconic. Another to come next week].
36 ODE TO JOY (BBC Concert Orchestra)
Warning: This is another Euro 96-related record. This time the single is a recording by the BBC Concert Orchestra of the rousing climax to Beethoven's 9th Symphony as used by BBC Television for their coverage of the championships. The BBC's choice of the track provoked a semi-ignorant protest from some quarters as it went against the tradition of using a piece of music relevant to the country hosting the contest - Beethoven of course being German. Mutterings were also heard from some quarters as Ode To Joy is also the official anthem of the European Union and given Britain's current strained relations with its European partners [t'was ever thus] it hardly seemed to be the most appropriate music to use to cheer on both England and Scotland in the championships. Pop and politics have collided in many ways in the past but never quite to this extent I'm sure. The BBC's use of classical or orchestral tracks for major tournaments dates back to the 1990 World Cup when they used Luciano Pavarotti's recording of Nessun Dorma to great acclaim, prompting the single to reach Number 2 and open the floodgates for Opera to become music for the masses once more. The tactic was tried again for the 1994 World Cup when Leonard Bernstein's America from the musical West Side Story was used but this time the single could only reach Number 44.
39 TWISTED (Keith Sweat)
A surprise return to the Top 40 for Keith Sweat, regarded in the US as one of the leading artists in his field. Over here he has never really found an audience. His only hit came back in March 1988 when I Want Her staggered up to Number 26. Despite reaching a succession of singles since, most have fallen well short of the chart and so this new single marks only the second time he has reached the Top 40.